- Fred Ward, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, 1984. And ends instantaneously… “There wasn’t a second Remo because the first one was a box-office failure,” recalled (007) scenarist Christopher Wood. “I like Fred Ward but he’s not a leading man. Ed Harris was up for the role. He might have made the difference.” Wood’s script was rewritten by (007) director Guy Hamilton. A 1988 TV pilot with Jeffrey Meek didn’t catch fire, either.
- Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1987. Martin Scorsese first read the Nikos Kazantzakis novel - a gift from Barbara Hershey) during their Boxcar Bertha in 1971. In the following 16 years, his choices for Jesus ranged from Harris, David Carradine (Hershey’s lover) and Aidan Quinn to Eric Roberts and Christopher Walken.
- Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988. Chevy Chase was too nervy, Harrison Ford too pricey and Eddie Murphy regretted passing… Also up for the human shamus saving a cartoon star’s career in Hollywood 1947 were Harris, Charles Grodin, Don Lane, Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Redford, Peter Renaday, Wallace Shawn, Sylvester Stallone. London’s Hoskins nailed Eddie Valiant in what critic Roger Ebert called “a joyous, giddy, goofy celebration of the kind of fun you can have with a movie camera.”
- Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989. UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Mel Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise) as the badass cop-cum-hit man. “If we’d hired a movie star to play Peck,” noted producer Frank Mancuso Jr, “we might not have been able to so successfully explore the darkness of the character.” Some 19 other stars - Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta… and four outsiders Richard Dean Anderson, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Ron Silver - all passed Peck to Gere for a double whammy comeback with Pretty Woman. “I’ve never been away,” snapped Gere. Oh, but he had. Almost to Palookaville.
- James Caan, Misery, 1990. "The idea of playing a victim didn't appeal to a lot of people," said director Rob Reiner explaining such refusniks as Harris, Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Gdene Hackman, John Heard, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Ed O’Neill, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Ritter, Denzel Washington. How come Caan agreed? "I think he wanted the work."
- Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.
- Julian Sands, Boxing Helena, 1992.
- Bruce Willis, Striking Distance, 1993. Set for Ed, re-spun for Robert De Niro and Willis finally apologised to ticket buyers in 2004. “It sucked!” No surprise as it also featured Sarah Jessica Parker.
- Bruce Willis, Nobody’s Fool, 1994. He was tied up so director Robert Benton SOSed one of his Billy Bathgate team to be Paul Newman’s on-off boss.
- Jeff Daniels, Speed, 1994. As Jack's sidekick, Ed was to be unmasked asthe mad bomber. Impossible with Daniels, said the producers, so a new bomber was created - for Dennis Hooper.
- James Woods, Nixon, 1994. Harris was the JFK director Oliver Stone’s #1 notion for the dreaded HR Haldeman (one half of Nixpon’s Berlin Wall!). Until a Stone regular took it over.
- Dennis Hopper, Carried Away, 1995. Hopper’s finest hour! As a mild-mannered schoolteacher, with a failed farm and a mid-aged lover, who finds a teenage vixen has manouevered herself into his bed in Bruno Barreto’s film with his wife Amy Irving (the ex-Mrs Spielberg).
- Tommy Lee Jones, Volcano, 1996. “Lava? Right here in L.A?” The hero of the disaster movie was first offered to Harris and Bill Pullman.
- Scott Glenn, Buffalo Soldiers, 2001. “War is hell... but peace is f*#!%!! boring.” For his Catch 22 in Gemany, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Director Gregor Jordan sent Ed the script, marking SergeantLee. He preferred Colonel Berman. OK, said Jordan, calling another of The Right Stuff NASAstronauts for the Sarge.
- Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can, 2002. When Gore Verbinski was to direct, he looked at Ed before settling on James Gandolfino as the FBI man chasing Leonardo DiCaprio’s cameleon con man. Finally. Steven Spielberg made the film - inevitably with Hanks.
- Alfred Molina,Spider-Man 2, 2003.
- Fred Willard, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, 2003. The first draft of the San Diego KVWN Channel 4 Newsman’s bio suggested actors for various roles including Ed for Ed Harken, panicking the 70s TV newsman by suggesting “diversity.” Namely, a woman co-anchor.
- Edward James Olmos, Battlestar Galactica, TV, 2004-2009. Harrison Ford and Sam Shepard were also among the somewhat lofty goals for the 74 hours of Admiral William Adama. Although fearing something campy like the 1978 series, Olmos was in by the fourth page of the scenario.
- David Morse, World War Z, 2012. After beating Leonardo DiCaprio to the rights, Brad Pitt found two of his co-stars jumping the zombie ship - Harris and Bryan Cranston. Obviously. The Boss had the best role.